Do you believe God wants to talk to you? I do! I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and yesterday a friend of mine gave a really uplifting talk about personal revelation. With her permission, I posted it here. Thank you Carly Stewart!
QUALIFYING FOR PERSONAL REVELATION
Qualifying Ourselves for Personal Revelation – is the topic of the day. And as someone who has always felt like I do not have a sensitive ear for spiritual messages… it feels very much like it was revelation received on my behalf to prepare this talk for this meeting today. I came across scriptures and talks that were perfect for what I struggle with. Both in my personal development and with my responsibilities with my calling. So, this talk is compiled by me, FOR me just a little bit… but it should be pretty solid advice for any of us.
I will start with the quote from President Nelson, that we have all heard numerous times – but if it struck you between the eyes, like it did me, then it bears repeating:
“In coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost… Choose to do the spiritual work required to enjoy the gift of the Holy Ghost and hear the voice of the Spirit more frequently and more clearly.”
We come here weekly to do a portion of that spiritual work – and there is a lot to be gained in a spiritual community… coming together with others to study with them, to listen, to try to absorb their spiritual experiences has been my preferred method of “engagement” for the greater portion of my life. But of course, we have been taught that we “will not be able to travel through life on borrowed light.”
Joseph Smith said, “Reading the experience of others, or the revelation given to them, can never give us a comprehensive view of our condition and true relation to God. Knowledge of these things can only be obtained by experience… Could you gaze into heaven five minutes, you would know more than you would by reading all that ever was written on the subject.”
What counts in the field of religion is to become a personal participant in it. We need to gaze 5 minutes into heaven, and find that enlightenment for ourselves.
So, what does it take to qualify for personal revelation? What is the soul-work, or spiritual work, that needs to be done? I can’t answer this question completely from personal experience, yet.
But after some study this week I think I have found a simple, and inpiring framework in the story of the Brother of Jared – with some added perspective from a BYU devotional given by J. Scott Miller, Dean of the BYU College of Humanities. Here are some thoughts that I have arrived at:
#1) WE SHOULD HEED THE DIRECTION THAT THE LORD HAS ALREADY GIVEN US
In the turmoil surrounding the Tower of Babel, the family of the Brother of Jared were concerned about whether they would be driven from the land, and if so where they were supposed to go. The Lord told them He would guide them to a Land of Promise, and His first instruction was to:
“Go to and gather together thy flocks…and also of the seed of the earth of every kind; and thy families…and when thou hast done this thou shalt go at the head of them down into the valley which is northward. And there will I meet thee…”
And that is what they did.
“And it came to pass that the Lord commanded them that they should ago forth into the wilderness, yea, into that quarter where there never had man been.”
And that is where they went.
“It came to pass that the Lord did bring Jared and his brethren forth even to that great sea which divideth the lands… And the Lord said: Go to work and build, after the manner of abarges which ye have hitherto built.
And so they worked and built.
I’ll stop there – because my point is obvious – but we see this pattern in scripture a lot. When we follow the direction given, the Lord can provide us with further help and knowledge. ‘Line upon line’ in this situation was likely, in part, a test of their obedience, but it was also a gentle method of teaching. The Lord was helping them take their journey one step at a time.
Can you guess what might’ve happened if the Lord had told them, “First, you will go forth in the wilderness, where man has never been before, then you will live in tents by the sea for four years, then you will build barges to cross an enormous ocean… and additionally, the barges will be completely dark, and fire and the sun won’t work as light sources.”
I, personally, might have said, “Having my language confounded actually sounds a little easier, I’ll just stay here in Babel.”
But the Lord knows how we learn, and He will wait for us to act on the promptings we’ve been given. Without completion or understanding of the first “step” or “lesson” there isn’t any use for further instruction.
More than just our personal promptings – heeding the direction the direction of the Lord also includes keeping the commandments and our covenants.
In Mosiah it says when we enter into a covenant with God, serve God, and keep His commandments, then He may pour out His Spirit more abundantly upon us. Every covenant we make and keep can increase the power and frequency of spiritual promptings.
#2) HAVE HUMILITY… AND HUMBLE UNCERTAINTY
In Ether Chapter 3, the Brother of Jared prays, “O Lord, do not be aangry with thy servant because of his weakness before thee; for we know that thou art holy and dwellest in the heavens, and that we are bunworthy before thee; because of the cfall, our dnatures have become evil continually; O Lord, look upon me in pity, and turn away thine anger from this thy people, and suffer not that they shall go forth across this raging deep in darkness.”
When I was reading these verses I had wondered why he was being so hard on himself, did I miss something? Was there a major transgression prior to this? I thought he had been faithfully building the barges…
Now, I’ll take a short detour here for some thoughts from Professor Miller and come back to that. In his devotional, Brother Miller discusses several forms of doubt – I want to relate two of them to our Brother of Jared. The first is rooted in pride and fear. He calls it Denial Doubt, which he compares to a compulsive fear of the dark – which is kind of a beautiful coincidence since we’re talking about pitch-black barges! Denial Doubt is when we fear vulnerability so much that we settle into only what we know, and choose to stay put in our secure but limited place. We ignore or even try to hide our weaknesses and allow fear to block our progress.
I think the potential for the Brother of Jared to experience Denial Doubt at this point in his journey would have been very understandable. There was so much unknown, and they were facing literal, long-term darkness. They could have stayed on the seashore, where they had been for 4 years already. It was secure there, but surely limiting, as they would forfeit a land of promise.
The second kind of doubt Brother Miller defines is rooted in humility. And he calls it Humble Uncertainty.
“There is, however, a soul-expanding kind of doubt that proceeds from an attitude of humility—the species of humility that openly admits our weaknesses. When we begin to see ourselves and our weaknesses clearly, we arrive at a state of vulnerability similar to what Joseph Smith faced as he unwittingly prepared himself for the Sacred Grove.”
I think this explains the language that the Brother of Jared was using in his prayer. It wasn’t harsh, it was honest. He was honestly and humbly uncertain about how they would survive the journey the Lord was laying out for them. He recognized his complete dependence on the Lord.
When I think of the people I know that seem to have the highest sensitivity to the Spirit, I realize they all have this attribute. They have earned it through their own trials and times of uncertainty, which they navigated with honest and humble prayer.
#3) BE FULL OF FAITH
If we are uncertain, it does not mean we don’t have faith. Actually, it’s the opposite! “Faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things.”
Continuing the Brother of Jared’s prayer, he says, “And I know, O Lord, that thou hast all apower, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man; therefore touch these stones, O Lord, with thy bfinger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness; and they shall shine forth unto us in the vessels which we have prepared, that we may have clight while we shall cross the sea.
Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this.”
“Surely God, as well as the reader, feels something very striking in the childlike innocence and fervor of this man’s faith. ‘Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this.’ Perhaps there is no more powerful, single line of faith spoken by man in scripture. It is almost as if he is encouraging God, reassuring him.
Not ‘Behold, O Lord, I am sure that thou canst do this.’ Not ‘Behold, O Lord, thou hast done many greater things than this.’
However uncertain the prophet is about his own ability, he has no uncertainty about God’s power… It is encouragement to God who needs no encouragement but who surely must have been touched by it.” – Jeffrey R. Holland
His pure faith removed the veil and the Brother of Jared saw the finger of the Lord reaching to touch the stones. Our faith can do the same for us – maybe not a vision of the same magnitude – but it can thrust us through the veil, and give us understanding in the moments when we need it most.
#4) BE STILL, AND STILL MOVING
Professor Miller recites this phrase from East Coker by T.S. Eliot, which is a poem about his conversion to Christiantity. It says:
We must be still and still moving.
into another intensity.
for a further union, a deeper communion…
Don’t you love a clever dual-meaning?! Poets are just better than the rest of us.
‘Be still.’ Commotion and spiritual feelings don’t usually co-exist. In our external world, we can set aside time and physical space. President Nelson gave us the recent advice to,
“Find a quiet place where you can regularly go… Pour out your heart to your Heavenly Father… Pray in the name of Jesus Christ about your concerns, your fears, your weaknesses—yes, the very longings of your heart. And then listen! Write the thoughts that come to your mind. Record your feelings and follow through with actions. As you repeat this process day after day, month after month, year after year, you will “grow into the principle of revelation.”
We can also dismiss any type of input – music, tv, literature etc. – that drives away the Spirit. Our brain learns to love what we feed it.
Internally, in our own hearts and minds we can also reduce commotion. Do your best to root out feelings of contention. Forgive others for their offenses, and repent of your own.
‘…and still moving.’
We can move toward a further union, and a deeper communion with God with effort. Through prayer and study. President Nelson also said, “Nothing opens the heavens quite like the combination of increased purity…daily feasting on the words of Christ in the Book of Mormon, and regular time committed to temple and family history work.”
The people that I know who have been able to receive guidance know to slow down. They try to remain close to the Spirit through their scriptures, and prayerful meditation is second-naturet to them. They carved out the space for these things and they have a natural place in their life’s rhythm.
#5 JUST TRY.
God is more patient, more loving, and more anxious for us to succeed than we can ever understand. He will give us every opportunity to be guided by Him. His deepest desire is to help us develop our innate capacity to receive revelation.
There is another line in T.S. Eliot’s poem that says, “For us, there is only the trying.”
It is a principle of growth that trying, will ultimately bring us to the knowledge we seek… Through faith and endurance, we can be guided in our lives right now. Through faith and endurance we can recieve answers to our questions, if we are not afraid to ask. Through faith and endurance, we may just be able to gaze into heaven.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
That’s it for now!